How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last? featured image
Mintra Kwthijak / Getty Images

Bringing two babies into the world were the most beautiful experiences of my life, but the postpartum hair loss that followed was not so beautiful. Though it doesn’t happen to everyone, the majority of my friends have experienced it, so know you’re not alone. Here, experts share the cause of the hair loss, how long it lasts and how to minimize its impact on your hair (and self-esteem).

“On average, we lose 50 to 100 hairs each day, with the majority of the shedding going unnoticed,” says Lars Skjoth, founder, CEO and lead researcher at Harklinikken. (This is the brand Ricki Lake used to help with the hair loss related to her androgenetic alopecia, and called it a “miracle.”) “Throughout pregnancy, hormonal changes postpone the normal shedding cycle, paving the way to thicker and more lustrous hair. But a few months after birth, your hormone levels return to normal and your hair starts to shed again, which can be a bit of a shock.”

New York dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD says the postpartum period is certainly an emotional time for each new mother, and hair loss can add to the stress. “Stress can also worsen the hair loss,” he explains. “My biggest recommendation is finding a dermatologist prior to giving birth, making sure you have a game plan. Find someone you can trust. The best scenario is that you are prepared and ride the ups and downs together. Just remember, it’ll get better. I promise.” 

Featured Experts:

  • Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of HairStim based in New York
  • Margarita Lolis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Hackensack, NJ
  • Lars Skjoth, founder, CEO and lead researcher at Harklinikken
  • Anabel Kingsley, trichologist and president of Philip Kingsley

What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?

“During pregnancy, estrogen levels are much higher,” Skjoth says. “This hormone keeps hair in its anagen phase—the growth phase—for longer.” Additionally, fewer hairs reach the telogen phase, which is when shedding occurs. Hence, this is where the term telogen effluvium comes from. “Telogen effluvium is the temporary shedding of hair, which commonly occurs after stress,” explains Dr. Lolis. “Pregnancy is a common trigger due to the physical and hormonal changes, as well as the stressful experience of childbirth.”

According to Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist and president of Philip Kingsley, after you give birth, your estrogen levels revert back to normal. “The hairs that were being kept in their growth phase now move into their resting phase. They rest for several weeks, then fall out after about three months, which explains why you might shed a large sum of strands within a short period of time.”

“From difficult deliveries to sleep deprivation, a new baby can take a toll,” adds Skjoth. “Postpartum hair loss is very common. While it doesn’t affect your physical health, it can have an impact on your self-esteem and confidence. Try to remember to take breaks and reduce stress where you can, which will benefit all aspects of your life: hair, body and mind.”

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?

“While some women may notice an increase in hair during the course of their pregnancy, they can notice rapid shedding in the weeks to months after giving birth,” Dr. Bhanusali explains. “Some new mothers may notice ‘clumps’ of hair loss around their scalp, beginning as early as six weeks postpartum. In Skjoth’s research, the changes started happening about three months after childbirth, on average. “The sudden hormone drop initiates the hair shedding that didn’t occur during pregnancy, and you can lose around four times as many hairs each day.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Lolis says the shedding and hair loss associated with telogen effluvium can last six to 12 months. “Women will notice increased hair shedding after brushing and showering, and possible thinning as well.” If you find that your hair loss doesn’t subside within this period, there may be another underlying issue responsible, adds Kingsley. “It could be a nutritional deficiency. I’d advise seeing a trichologist who can properly assess your required levels to support optimal hair growth. Your general practitioner will only look at your levels from a general health perspective. But for hair health, they often need to be significantly higher. At our Trichological Clinics, we often send clients for blood tests so we can properly advise.”

How Your Diet Can Help

Skjoth says that eating a well-balanced diet is a good way to minimize the effects of hair loss. “Hair is made of the protein keratin, so eating foods rich in protein will ensure your hair stays strong and healthy,” he explains. “Foods like chicken, beef, fish, green vegetables, eggs, walnuts, beans and sweet potatoes will have a positive impact on the body and hair. It’s likely that you’ll have less time to think about what you’re eating when the baby arrives, but eating the right things will help fill nutrient deficiencies that can impact your hair health.”

Dr. Lolis recommends incorporating sources of iron and zinc into your diet as well. She’s also a fan of Nutrafol, a popular hair-growth nutraceutical that includes zinc, collagen peptides, biotin and more. If you aren’t able to get the aforementioned nutrients from food, Dr. Bhanusali says supplements can help. “Vitamin D3 and iron supplementation is important for those who are deficient. I tend to make sure our patients have adequate ferritin and vitamin D3 levels.”

Drinking enough water is also essential. “When you don’t drink enough, your body will use the water you do drink for more important functions than your hair,” Skjoth adds. “This causes it to become dry and brittle, and can slow or even stop hair growth.”

Expert Tips for Minimizing Postpartum Hair Loss

  • When it comes to styling, be kind to your hair. “Hairstyles that are too tight are strenuous on your hair and can increase the hair loss,” says Skjoth. “Be gentle when styling your hair and avoid putting in a tight ponytail.” Hot styling tools can also cause damage and breakage that can exacerbate thinning.
  • “Try a shampoo and conditioner that adds volume to make your hair seem thicker and fuller,” says Skjoth. Harkinikken’s Stabilizing Scalp Shampoo helps restore hair to its natural thickness while creating a strong base for healthy hair to grow.
  • Prioritize scalp care. “A healthy scalp is important for hair growth,” says Skjoth. “When estrogen levels decrease, it can cause the oil glands to become less active and produce less sebum. This can cause the scalp to become dry and itchy. The lack of hydration on the scalp also means less hydration to the hair strands. And with less natural oils to moisturize them, they can become drier and more prone to breakage.” Dr. Lolis recommends the Weleda Rosemary Condition & Shine Hair Oil, which she calls “a safe, natural option to boost hair growth” and nourish the scalp. Kingsley helped develop Philip Kingsley’s Density Preserving Scalp Drops, which can help if you suffer from shedding. “They are clinically proven to reduce hair shedding with three months of daily consistent use. They work by keeping the hairs in their anagen (growth) phase for longer.”
  • Add a scalp massage into your routine. “It can also help boost blood flow and encourage the growth of new hair,” says Skjoth. “Apply firm but gentle pressure in circular motions when washing your hair. Brushing your scalp every night with a natural bristle brush can also increase blood circulation.”
  • If at-home remedies aren’t providing the help you need, visit a board-certified dermatologist for more options. “We sometimes do steroid drops or injections to help slow the hair loss,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “The theory is that there is a partial inflammatory event occurring—in addition to hormone changes—and the anti-inflammatory treatment can help. We also sometimes do red light treatment in the office weekly for up to six weeks.”
  • A dermatologist can also offer topical prescription formulas. Dr. Bhanusali founded a company called HairStim, which creates bespoke compounds of prescription-only ingredients including high-dose minoxidil, topical finasteride, topical spironolactone and others. “We have seen great results in our patients.”

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